Event Coverage

Shelby Birthday Bash

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by Jerry Heasley  More from Author

Shelbys Take Over the Highways From Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

January 2008 was Carroll Shelby’s 85th birthday. The party held at Shelby’s Las Vegas production facility was called the Birthday Bash. For 2009, although Carroll did turn another digit on January 11, the Birthday Bash became simply, The Bash and will now be an annual affair.

I’ve been to hundreds of car shows and events in my 30 years on the road. Perhaps none has been quite so far flung and diversified as this year’s Shelby Bash. There are no dull moments with the Shelby Run from LA to Vegas taking place on Thursday morning, track time all day Friday and Saturday, poker runs both days as well, a banquet Saturday night with speakers, and a grand finale car show on Sunday.

Still, meeting Carroll Shelby remains the biggest attraction of all for Shelby-ites. For ’09 Carroll had slightly bigger fish to fry in Detroit. He did not have time to blow out candles. Although the legend did attend a couple hours of track time on Saturday at Las Vegas International Raceway’s 3.1-mile road course, he had to fly off to Michigan to attend the Detroit Auto Show. The occasion was the introduction of the newest Shelby in the Mustang line up, the 2010 GT500. 2010, of course, marks a new generation Mustang and with this model year comes another GT500. Meanwhile, back in Las Vegas, the party marched on.

Actually, the festivities kicked off in the environs of Los Angeles. Carroll’s shop in Gardena was the center of activity as more than 100 enthusiasts gathered at Shelby offices at o-dark-thirty on a warm Thursday morning.

Enis Yeneriz, driving his orange and black Super Snake convertible, led the procession of mostly Shelbys east to Las Vegas. As ringleader he warned during the driver’s meeting, “We are going to maintain decorum on the highways. Individuals who chose to break out of the pack and go nuts, go ahead, but at the end you’re not going to be able to get some of your items.”
“Items” referred to the “goodie” bag full of Shelby collectibles available only to participants on their arrival at the Aliente Hotel & Casino in Vegas. Thus warned, a decent level of decorum was achieved.

I heard of no incidents or speeding tickets issued, even though Enis revealed, “The CHP (California Highway Patrol) knows we’re on the road. Last year, I pulled into Bakersfield to get gasoline. A truck driver came up, rolled down his window and yelled, ‘You guys are like a rash on the CB radio. The CHP is looking for you guys.’ And sure enough as we entered into Nevada, there were Nevada Highway Patrol cars pointing in the opposite direction just watching us go by.”

After a moment of silence, a participant in the driver’s meeting got big laughs when he said, “You can’t hide 100 Shelbys.”

We were a glorious site cruising into Tommie’s Hamburgers off Route 90 in Bakersfield, California. Shelby Automobiles passed out free coupons for burgers, fries and drinks. After lunch, Mark Korst invited me to stand on top of the back end of his brand new rental Mustang convertible so I could take a picture of the cars lined up. I did a crazy thing. I stayed in the back of the convertible and shot pictures for the next two hours driving to Las Vegas. The windy ride was fun, especially standing up in the back seat and pointing my camera into a 70-plus mph wind to snap pictures.

These trips with a crew of 100 or so people send one back to carefree, youthful days. Adults who started out talking about their jobs eventually loosened up and started joking like they were back in high school on a field trip.

All of us were a team. Actually, this was Team Shelby, headed up by Robert and Sharon Lane. In fact, they trailed the procession at the very back in their beautiful yellow 2008 Terlingua Mustang. Pat, driving the Shelby tractor/trailer rig was even further back in case a car broke down. None did, but Pat was ready with tires, fuel and mechanical tools.

For the record, most of the Shelbys were new. A 1966 GT350H was conspicuous by its presence among an assortment of Shelby GTs, GT500s, Super Snakes, Terlinguas, a lone Ford GT, plus Shelbys from the Dodge generation of the ’80s. Rental car Mustangs peppered the procession as out-of-staters and even people from out of the country did not want to miss this event.

Participants staged in the parking lot of Shelby’s Gardena office early Thursday morning. Don O’Brien applies the number 59 to his 2007 40th Anniversary GT500 Super Snake. To go on this Shelby Run, Dan trailered his Shelby from Beaumont, Texas to Las Vegas. Then, he drove his Shelby with another group to Los Angeles so he could caravan to Vegas. Don’s Super Snake has full Super Snake power and performance upgrades featuring 725 hp. The number 21 on the side of his vehicle is from Shelby’s Terlingua event in the fall of 2007. “I’m keeping it,” Don said of the number.

“Big Larry” Williams is a fixture at Shelby events. He drove a bone stock brand new V6 Mustang from LA to Vegas. His car has an appointment at Shelby Automobiles to be turned into a Shelby Terlingua Mustang.

Jenni Shreeves is the head of the Carroll Shelby Children’s Foundation. If you’ve sent a car part or other item to Carroll’s office in Gardena to be signed, she’s the one getting the items to the man. She almost always has a smile on her face.

Stuart Nichols, from Canton, Ohio, suspected he drove the longest distance to the meet in his Shelby. He encountered snow in Albuquerque and Flagstaff driving his 40th Anniversary GT500–that is also a Super Snake. Stuart said, “We were down at Terlingua, had a great time down there and now we’re up here for the 86th (Carroll’s birthday). We were at the 85th birthday bash. It’s just a continuation of trying to enjoy Carroll.”

Enis Yeneriz – driver’s meeting at Shelby’s.

Shelby’s head ’em up and move ’em out from the parking lot in Gardena, California, for the Shelby Run to Vegas.

Vintage Shelby’s are certainly welcome on the Shelby Run. This ’66 GT350H was one of the few 1965-1970 entries.

I stood on top of the back of Mark’s rental car Mustang convertible to get this shot of the Shelby Run cars lined up in Bakersfield outside Tommie’s Hamburgers (see sign left). To the front left is Enis’ Super Snake convertible.

The group held together for the entire 225-mile trip from LA to Vegas.

Rick Saute drove his 2006 Ford GTX1 to Vegas. Notice the famous Las Vegas “Strip” far off in the background

The Aliente was our hotel. This is a brand new hotel and casino on the north end of Las Vegas off the 215 freeway. It provides easy access to Shelby Automobiles. Plus, the rooms are as nice as a luxury hotel on the strip at a fraction of the price. Everybody loved it.

Track action was the big deal Friday. The 3.1-mile road course adjacent to the big NASCAR oval on the grounds of Las Vegas International Speedway is right around the corner from Shelby Automobiles.

This 1965 Shelby GT350 joined us in Vegas for track action.

The event artwork was on jackets, T-shirts, even a banner that Team Shelby sold.

The Bash had a “Poker Run” on both Friday and Saturday. Everybody gathered in the lobby of the hotel to get their driving directions.

Entrants pick up five cards at specified stops and win prizes. We drove through the “Valley Of Fire” and Lake Mead recreational areas. They feature winding roads, straight roads, elevation changes and tremendous views.

In the Valley Of Fire.

Featured speaker at the banquet Saturday night was Rick Titus. The famous Shelby racecar driver, Jerry Titus, was his father. Rick was pleased that Shelby Automobiles will build a new Jerry Titus special edition Mustang. Titus is a racecar driver and instructor who has worked for a number of different car magazines and produces videos for Ford.

Cleo Shelby spoke about how she met Carroll and added a little bit about her biography.

The car show was held in front of Shelby Automobiles on the grounds of Las Vegas International Speedway on Sunday January 11, Carroll’s birthday.


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